Nishikori and Dimitrov surprise in Brisbane
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The Brisbane International final is being played by two players who were not expected to be contesting the title of the first of the Australian warm-up events.
This one will give me a lot of confidence, and hopefully tomorrow too
At the Brisbane International Kei Nishikori has established himself as favourite to collect the trophy following his three set victory over Stan Wawrinka and reach the final of this Australian warm-up event.
There he faces Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian who ousted the defending champion and world number three, Milos Raonic, in straight sets.
Nishokori levelled his head-to-head record against Wawrinka to 4-all when he beat the Swiss number one 7-6(3) 6-3 to make the final for the first time in seven appearances at the season-opener in Brisbane.
The Japanese star took full advantage of a weakened opponent who required treatment to his lower left leg at the end of the tie-breaker and then twice again in the second set.
"This one will give me a lot of confidence, and hopefully tomorrow too," Nishikori admitted later as he builds towards the Australian Open where he hopes to win his first grand slam title. "The Grand Slam is going to be a big goal for me to play well.
"It was a really tough first set but I really stayed tough until the tie-break, and I got one or two chance in the tiebreak.
"After that, I think I was playing better in the second."
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Meanwhile earlier in the day Dimitrov produced the upset of the event with his 7-6(7) 6-2 dismissal of Raonic who had in turn dismissed a revitalised Rafa Nadal in the previous round.
There was little to separate the two players and it was only when the Bulgarian nosed ahead by taking the tie-break 9-7, that he became more confident in his game to break the big-serving Canadian Wimbledon finalist twice in the second set and snatch, after 88-minutes of play, a place in the final.
"There are guys that I have always played differently, I feel," Dimitrov said in advance of the final.
"Kei is one of those guys. But it’s just another match for me. As I said, it’s the final. I’m not playing anything next week so for sure, I’m going to get out there and just leave it all."
In the previous round British No.2 Kyle Edmund fought for over two and half hours against Wawrinka only to eventually go down after a spirited fight, 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2 to the US Open champion and world number four.